The unstoppable Australian fires

australia fire melted wheels
The fire melted alloy wheels

Australian Dave Riley comments on our post about the fires there.

And they will stop them in Australia too.

No they won’t. And they haven’t. The fires will subside when they run out of fuel/wind/and the temperature drops. These fires are unstoppable.

I was trying offer some bedraggled optimism. In the Los Angeles fire I mentioned  they did extremely dangerous water drops at night to prevent the fire from cresting the other side of Topanga Canyon. Had that happened, it would have hit the more populated Palisades Highlands and been catastrophic. But the Australia fires already are catastrophic, beyond anything ever seen in southern California, even eclipsing the 1961 Bel Air fire.

So far there’s been 131 deaths with more likely and that’s not considering the deaths from polluted air among asthmatics and old people from dehydration in the searing heat — regardless of the fires.

Katherine Bradsteet has a great article here. I grew up in Victoria and know these burnt out towns very well indeed.

The article points out that global warming is clearly a factor here and that  privatization transport has failed during this crisis but public transport kept going. It’s clear that existing governmental structures are not adequate to handle the fires.

It is all quite amazing. Australia burns every year but never like this. Melbourne experienced electricity meltdown through air conditioning demands on the grid. And in the fires, corrugated iron was melted. Melted! Iron watertanks full of water simply melted!

The good news is the highly successful climate convergence last weekend: report here.

And here’s another element in the mix. Recent research here suggests that as forests replenish their growth after fires burn out, they soak up 20-30% more of the available water in the forest reducing run off in that watershed by that factor — and they impose that demand for up to 20 years. So with the droughts (indepent of this factor) the water usage for farms downstream are denied the water by the ecology of regrowth.

Victoria is in long term chronic water crisis and there is a war over water access as farming is being denied water to water the city.

Dave’s primary point, I think, it that the fires must be seen in the larger context in which they occur. Global warming, an economic system that values profit about planning for the common good, and increasingly hollowed-out central governments who can not respond effectively are all contributing factors to the Australian fires, it’s not just Mother Nature on a solitary rampage.


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